Lake Oroville Community Update - August 12, 2022


Aerial of lake Oroville. Photo taken May 24, 2022.

Aerial of lake Oroville. Photo taken May 24, 2022.

Water Supply Strategy

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday California’s latest actions to increase water supply and adapt to more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change. The actions, outlined in a strategy document called “California’s Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future” (Strategy), follows $8 billion in state investments over the last two years to help store, recycle, de-salt, and conserve the water needed to keep up with the increasing pace of climate change.

The strategy calls for investing in new sources of water supply, accelerating projects, and modernizing how the state manages water through the use of new technologies. Strategies to rebuild the way we source, store, and deliver water include creating storage space above and below ground to capitalize on big storms when they do occur, better recycling and safer reuse of wastewater currently discharged into the ocean, becoming more efficient water users through conservation, desalination efforts – especially of brackish groundwater which requires significantly less energy to treat than seawater, and groundwater recharge.

An additional $2.8 billion in the 2022-23 budget for drought relief to hard hit communities, water conservation, environmental protection for fish and wildlife, and long-term projects to permanently strengthen drought resilience will help combat the accelerating impacts of the warming climate on our water supply. Governor Newsom anticipates working with the Legislature to achieve statewide goals by creating local solutions through collaboration within and across watersheds. The news release and link to the Strategy report is available on the Office of the Governor’s newsroom webpage.

Water Safety – Swimmers Itch

Over the last two weeks, this update has featured information on water safety. Recommendations include always wearing a life jacket; abiding by posted boating speed limits – especially around areas where swimmers may be present; and being alert for symptoms of cold-water immersion shock, such as involuntary gasping and rapid breathing, which can quickly become life-threatening.

Those enjoying the waters of California’s lakes, rivers, and streams should also be aware of the Aug. 2 Butte County Department of Public Health (DPH) news release (also posted on their Facebook page) which informs the public to very small parasites that can cause an allergic reaction and/or rash, commonly referred to as swimmers itch. The parasites are released from infected snails and then spread to birds and other water animals who shed the organism, which are more likely to be present in shallow water near the shoreline.

The most common symptoms may include tingling, burning or itching skin, small reddish pimples and small blisters. Swimmer’s itch is not contagious and most cases do not require medical attention. You can reduce the risk by choosing swimming spots carefully – away from marshy areas were snails and waterfowl are commonly found and rinsing off thoroughly immediately after leaving the water and then drying vigorously with a clean towel.

Taking sensible and even extra precautions when recreating around or in the water will help keep you and your family safe this summer. For more information on boating requirements and safety, visit the California Division of Boating and Waterways and the Center for Disease Control for an informative webpage on swimmers itch.

For additional safety information, see the Blue-green algae section below.

Blue Green Algae Monitoring

DWR environmental scientists regularly monitor Lake Oroville, the Thermalito North Forebay, and the Thermalito Afterbay for blue-green algae and their toxins, taking water samples from various locations regularly from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are currently no harmful algal bloom (HAB) advisories for Lake Oroville, the Thermalito Forebay, or the Thermalito Afterbay.

If elevated levels of cyanobacteria toxins are found, DWR staff work with California’s Regional Water Quality Control Board and recreation area managers to notify the public and post advisory signs at affected waterbodies. To learn more about HABs, or to report a HAB, visit the Water Board’s website.

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) is a natural component of ecosystems. Under certain conditions, including warmer temperatures and increased nutrient loads, algae can grow rapidly causing “blooms.” Algal blooms sometimes produce toxins that can be harmful to people and animals.

Dogs and small children are most likely to be affected by harmful algal blooms (HABs) due to their smaller body size and probability to play in water for longer periods. Animals are especially susceptible to the toxins because they tend to drink while in the water and lick their fur afterwards.

DWR urges recreational users to take the necessary precautions and stay away from all algae since there is no way to tell if an algal bloom is toxic just by looking at it. Indicators can be mats, scum, or foam at the surface or along the shoreline, streaks in the water that look like spilled paint, or gasoline-like, septic, or fishy odors. Visit this comparison chart on the HABs website for additional information.

Oroville Recreation

The Lake Oroville area has over 92 miles of trails, open to hiking, with some also allowing for  horseback riding, some also allowing biking, and some designated for “multi-use” where all three activities may occur on the same trail. The trails provide users with spectacular views of Lake Oroville and the valley, home to the Sutter Buttes – named the smallest mountain range in the world.

Trails and their permitted uses, day use areas, boat ramps and other recreation facilities are featured on DWR’s interactive map on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. Step inside the Lake Oroville Visitor Center, open Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to learn about the State Water Project and history of the area.

At Lake Oroville, the Lime Saddle, Bidwell Canyon, Spillway, and Loafer Point boat ramps are open, along with the Lime Saddle and Bidwell Canyon marinas, and reservations for campgrounds in the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) can be made by visiting the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CA Parks) LOSRA website.

The Thermalito Forebay and Afterbay also provide a wide range of recreation opportunities including fishing, hiking, biking and boating. Non-motorized boating is permitted in the North Forebay, and motorized boating is permitted in the South Forebay and Afterbay. The North Forebay Aquatic Center has kayaks, paddle boards, and other watercraft available for rent. Non-motorized boating is also permitted in the Thermalito Diversion Pool with kayak access just before the restroom on Cherokee Road. Lake Oroville and the Oroville Wildlife Area also have car-top boat launch areas.

Plumas National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has implemented Stage II Fire Restrictions in the Plumas National Forest due to increasing fire danger and dry forest fuels from extended hot weather. Under Stage II Fire Restrictions, campfires are only allowed at specifically designated campgrounds with a host and in established fire rings. Information about additional restrictions on smoking, use of internal combustion engines, wood cutting, and the California Campfire Permit can be found on the Plumas National Forest website.

Current Lake Operations

The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 718 feet elevation and storage is about 1.39 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 40 percent of its total capacity and 62 percent of historical average. Temperatures are forecasted to continue in the mid-to-upper-90s over the weekend and increasing to the low-100s next week.

The Feather River releases are currently at 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to meet downstream Delta water quality and outflow needs. Flows through the City of Oroville are 1,000 cfs with 2,000 cfs released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 3,000 cfs downstream of the Outlet. Flows through the low flow channel may fluctuate through the week for fisheries purposes. 

The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels, and more at the California Data Exchange Center at The Lake Oroville gage station is identified as “ORO”.

All data as of midnight 8/11/2022